Palatka : Florida


What It Is Like to Retire in Palatka

Palatka in northeast Florida is one of the more interesting towns in the State.  In 2015 we listed it as one of the 10 Funky Towns in Florida, mainly because it has an old history, interesting institutions, and a different vibe than most of Florida. It was founded by Denys Rolle, an English gentleman and philanthropist, who established Rollestown on the east bank of the St. Johns River at the head of deep-water navigation. His 78,000-acre plantation was a utopian commercial and humanitarian experiment, recruiting settlers off the streets of London, including paupers, vagrants, pickpockets and "penitent prostitutes." Unfortunately the utopian community didn't work out as planned. Today the city is coming out of an economic slump and is actively working toward redevelopment of its riverfront and downtown area.One of the key instiutions in the city is St. Johns River State College, which has approximately 10,000 students. Photo of old postcard of Lemon Street courtesy of Wikipedia; the VIking Center courtesy of Wikipedia and Mathew105601, both in the public domain.


Where to Retire in Palatka and Home Prices

There are several neighborhoods, although we are not aware of any 55+ developments here. The eastern part of town has the historic districts. The broad area east closer to St. Augustine and Palm Coast does have many such places to live. According to Zillow, the median home value was $171,872, in mid-2022.


What Is Special about Palatka

Palatka has an interesting history, starting off with its utopian origins. The St. Johns River State College campus is a big influence on the town, which also houses the Florida School of the Arts and the local St. Leo University branch. There are several brick streest. Several architectural styles are represented within the city. Victorian, Colonial Revival, Art Deco, Classical Revival, and Prairie Schoolare all prominent building styles in the historical districts.  There are numerous parks including the James C. Godwin Riverfront Park, Hank Bryan Park, Ravine Gardens State Park, and Veteran's Memorial Park.


What Is Not Special about Palatka

To be fair, Palatka is not a great retirement spot for everyone. It has historically been a high crime town, although that rate goes down every year.  Unemployment is high and the median family income is low.


Who Will Like Retirement in Palatka

Palatka's racial mix, about 50% African-American and the rest white and Hispanic, is not representative of the rest of the U.S. To retire here you have to have an open mind and hope that the strides the city has made to improve will continue, without destroying the offbeat atmosphere that makes it interesting.


Local Economy Is Driven by

Palatka is a modern rarity in that manufacturing is a big part of the local economy. The river is still important for transportation.


Climate and Physical Environment

Here in Northeast Florida the January average temperature is in the high 50s, going into the 80s by July.  The city is west of St. Augustine and Palm Coast, south of Jacksonville, and east of Gainesville.  It is located on the St. Johns River.


Restaurants & Cultural Scene

The Larimer Memorial Library and the St. Johns River State University are a big part of Palatka cultural life. The library, a fusion of Prairie School and Art Deco, is also home to the Art Council of Greater Palatka and houses local art gallerys. The area is well known for its local festivals, most notably the Florida Azalea Festival and the Blue Crab Festival. 



Historically the crime rate has been very high in Palatka.  An encouraging trend is that it has continued to improve every year since 2000, and is now under double the national average.


Medical Facilities

Local health care is provided by the Putnam Community Medical Center. The 140-bed facility offers a medical and surgical units, 24-hour emergency department, critical care unit, skilled nursing unit, progressive care unit, family birthplace center.



Palatka has  a municipa airport although nearby Jacksonville has much better service. There is an Amtrak station and local bus service.  The river is used to sip goods. Several state hightways go through town.


Valuable Links

Wikipedia page for Palatka

City of Palatka


What people are saying about Palatka

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